Hemalatha Jain revives the Gomi Teni weave through her project, Punarjeevana
Around 450 kilometres north of Benga-luru lies Gajendragad, a dry, inland town in Gadag district. Aside from its fort, built by Chatrapati Shivaji, the Kalakaleshwara temple and picturesque hillocks that serve as shoot locations for Kannada films, it is renowned for being the hub of Karnataka’s handloom industry. Hemalatha Jain, a former designer who is currently a professor in Textile and Fashion design at Symbiosis Univer-sity Pune, has been working closely with weavers in the region for the past six years. While the traditional patteda anchu sari has been the focus of Hemalatha and the weaving cluster set up by her, Punarjeevana, since she got her project off the ground, she is now attempting to revive another weave — the gomi teni.
“This cotton sari was popular in the 12th century. As the motif used on the saris was the gomi teni or jowar stalks (closely resembling the herringbone pattern), it was considered a symbol of prosperity and was gifted to pregnant women and worn during the harvest festival, Sankranti,” begins Hemalatha. For the past 40 years, reveals the revivalist, the production of the sari has been dwindling, thus slotting it with the numerous weaves that have gone extinct. “I came across this rare sari, when I was working on the patteda anchu. Apart from gomi teni, there are a few others that nobody wears or makes anymore. I would like to explore those in future,” she shares.
Handwoven on frame looms, the saris bear checkered patterns in contrasting shades. For instance, a black sari has been contrasted with white checks. “The colour combinations are contemporary. Tradi-tionally, the colours used were predominantly red and yellow. Also, we’ve designed them in such a way that they are reversible and the two pallus are completely different,” she tells us. While the revival is a step forward for the weaving community, the effect on the environment is also cause for concern. However, the water scarcity in Northern Karnataka is not lost on the designer. She has created special eco-friendly dyes that don’t use too much water. “These dyes ensure the saris are not high maintenance. They don’t need to be laundered. They can be washed at home,” she explains. The saris will be on sale at Kamalini, the store set up by the Crafts Council of Karnataka in Malleswaram.
Rs.2,500. March 9 & 10, 11 am